. . . Yes you’ve guessed it, “you never know what you’re gonna get” (especially where 35mm is concerned). I could also quote a favourite saying of one-time TV football pundit, Jimmy Greeves – “It’s a funny old game.”
At least that’s how it felt as I took my place amongst the crazed swathes of early Christmas shoppers on the streets of Chester recently, one dark and cold Saturday morning.
Mercifully though and despite the ominous blanket of moody black cloud that appeared to hover inches above our heads, the day remained dry. Add to the equation that there was barely a square foot of pavement available to each pedestrian and you have the perfect environment (?) for the Street Photographer, be it one who’s still in recovery from a good-old-fashioned nervous breakdown.
Which brings me nicely to the reason I was now standing approximately centre-left of a shopping thoroughfare, the Leica M2 loaded with HP5 and a Voigtlander 50 f/1.5 lens mounted.
It had been at least 10 weeks since I’d even dared to pickup a camera, partly through fear that doing so might trigger another ‘episode’. What if I started panicking again, or worse still, began sobbing and wailing uncontrollably like some great grizzly bear and in full view of every bewildered passerby?
“Pull yourself together Kevin”, I told myself “you’re made of stronger stuff than this”!?
So whilst utilising some simple meditative techniques I’d learnt just days before, and with an extra large deep breath, I aquired a subject and clicked the shutter.
My word that felt good, the silky ‘schunk’ of the M2’s shutter still echoing in my thoughts. What was more, I was still in one piece and at peace with myself and the surroundings.
It’s a difficult feeling to describe but it was certainly peculiar and more than a little ‘other-worldly’ to be walking amongst the huge crowds of people, their associated noise and bussle somehow largely muted and non-distracting. Whereas in the past I would notice and somehow be ‘bruised’ by every suspecting (or otherwise) glance in my direction, now it all went by unregistered. Had I reached a street photography ‘Nirvana’ – a level of self-belief where I was able to discard all of the mental baggage I had accumulated over the years of shooting on the streets (and before)? Fear of reprisals, discomfort of photographing strangers, paranoia of what others may be thinking? Now I was ‘parking’ myself next to people and through subtle ‘slight-of-hand’ gestures and body language, dissuading them that I was interested in them at all.
Even when I knew I’d been rumbled, it was a simple matter of just taking the picture and calmly walking on in another direction.
A newfound patience was also evident. Taking the time to stand near someone, waiting until people had walked out of the way and until the subject had lost interest in ‘this guy’ with a camera. “No, he’s photographing that double-decker tourist bus”, they would (possibly) think. Click !!!
Or maybe they’re convinced I’m taking pictures of the same thing they’re interested in?
Or just possibly they have no idea what I’m photographing (or even care), no matter what direction they look in?
Whatever the reasons, it felt REALLY good to have a camera in my hand again and to be out and about enjoying city life.
Now where should I go to next? 🙂